February 28, 2008 / 5:24 PM / 9 years ago

Berlin gallery shuts after Muslim threats

BERLIN (Reuters) - A Berlin gallery has temporarily closed an exhibition of satirical works by a group of Danish artists after six Muslim youths threatened violence unless one of the posters depicting the Kaaba shrine in Mecca was removed, it said on Thursday.

The Galerie Nord in central Berlin said it had closed its "Zionist Occupied Government" show of works by Surrend, a group of artists who say they poke fun at powerful people and ideological conflicts.

On Tuesday, four days after the exhibition opened, a group of angry Muslims stormed into the gallery, shouting demands that one of the 21 posters should be removed, said the gallery.

"They were very aggressive and shouted at an employee that the poster should be taken down otherwise they would throw stones and use violence," the gallery's artistic director Ralf Hartmann told Reuters.

The Muslims objected to a depiction of the Kaaba -- the ancient shrine in Mecca's Grand Mosque which Muslims face to say their prayers -- which gave a "bitingly satirical commentary against radicalism," said the gallery in a statement.

SECURITY REVIEW

Hartmann said the gallery was working with German authorities to improve security and he hoped to re-open the show as soon as possible.

"It would be unacceptable if individual social groups were in a position to exercise censorship over art and the freedom of expression," said the gallery in a statement.

The show also contained pictures which ridiculed neo-Nazis who believe Jews dominate global politics and industry as well as the state of Israel and radical Jews.

Surrend members are mainly street artists and use stickers, advertisements, posters and Web sites to express irony.

In 2006, a Berlin opera house caused a storm in Germany when it cancelled a production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" which showed the Prophet Mohammad's severed head, citing security fears.

And this month, Danish newspapers reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad which caused outrage in Islamic countries and sparked violent protests across the globe two years ago.

They republished the drawings after police arrested three men on suspicion of plotting to kill a cartoonist who drew one of the images.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers

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